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Old 02-20-2008, 05:48 PM   #1
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Default Blessing & KERS - The next big powertrain advance in Formula 1 revs to 64,500 rpm

Back in March 2005, I admitted being no fan of organized motorsports. The context was a report from the SAE Motorsports Engineering Conference and Exhibition on a move to add energy efficiency as a racing parameter in hopes of making race cars more relevant to their roadgoing brethren and broaden the sport's appeal to guys like me. Now Formula 1 is taking the first baby step in that direction by permitting -- not requiring -- "kinetic energy recovery systems" in 2009. Naturally, every team is expected to adopt such a system. Team Toyota will likely leverage its Hybrid Synergy Drive franchise with an electric KERS using ultracapacitors. Hydraulic hybridization promises great power delivery but requires 10-plus bulky gallons of oil. I'm most intrigued by a solution recently unveiled by Flybrid Systems LLP, of Silverstone, England, which uses a small flywheel to capture and release energy.

Some of you must be saying, "That's been tried before and failed." Yes, Chrysler took a stab at a flywheel-hybrid race car called the Patriot back in 1994-1995, but that series turbine/flywheel/electric setup was far more ambitious, involving a big flywheel expected to deliver power down the entire Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans. Safely containing a flywheel storing over two horsepower-hours of energy proved impossible.

This new one is way smaller (11 pounds, 7.9 inches diameter, four inches wide) and stores less than a tenth as much energy-just 0.15 hp-hr (400kJ, the max allowed by FIA) spinning at 64,500 rpm. More important, because the energy remains in a mechanical state, the flywheel can accept and release it far more quickly than can a system that must first convert the mechanical energy to electricity, store it, and retrieve it again. Hence, per ex-Renault F1 team engineer and Flybrid managing partner Jon Hilton, around 70 percent of the energy recovered during braking is available for use in acceleration-a big step up from the 35 to 45 percent you get back from an electric KERS. The flywheel and everything controlling it and connecting it to the car weighs just 55 pounds and delivers up to 80 horses for 6.7 seconds (again the max allowed by the regs).


Technical details of the flywheel haven't been fully divulged, but the rim and the containment housing are composite of patented formula and construction. The hub disc is high-strength steel and its shaft runs in mechanical bearings with ceramic balls in steel races. The flywheel spins in a vacuum (thanks to patented shaft seals) because at peak rim speeds of Mach 3.3, air friction would elevate flywheel-rim temperatures to 750 degrees F. As it is, the system requires no cooling, and it has endured crash tests of up to 30 g without exploding.

The enabling technology here is a small toroidal friction-drive CVT developed by Torotrak and built under license by Xtrac. This "variator" connects the flywheel to the output shaft of a standard F1 manual transmission (see motortrend.com for more on how this type of CVT works). A multiplate wet clutch connects the flywheel to the variator through a gear reduction of about 5.2:1, and the variator's gear-ratio spread is about 6:1. From there, the speed is stepped up slightly to match the output shaft speed.

Might a flywheel KERS power your next car? Torotrak has the CVT working at -40 degrees (it's powering Cub Cadet tractors now). Jon Hilton says the system bolts on easily, is robust, and should cost $1000/car in volume production. That seems ambitious, considering the flywheel will still require clean-room assembly, but even at double, it's a bargain next to electric hybrids.

For now, I'm just optimistic that F1 racing will become interesting in 2009.


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Old 02-20-2008, 06:41 PM   #2
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Wow those are all fascinating technologies. I am especially interested in the flywheel - this technology has been around for ages now, but with the engineering, computer control, and metalurgy we have today, this might very well work.

It's stuff like this that could pull me into F1.
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Old 02-20-2008, 08:32 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Hazdaz View Post
Wow those are all fascinating technologies. I am especially interested in the flywheel - this technology has been around for ages now, but with the engineering, computer control, and metalurgy we have today, this might very well work.

It's stuff like this that could pull me into F1.
Then you'll be thrilled to hear that in a couple more years they're going to allow exhaust heat energy recovery systems as well. It'll be interesting to see what they come up with there -- there are aero implications with that as well, as the radiator pods could be smaller and the bodywork could be tighter over the exhausts.
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Old 02-20-2008, 09:05 PM   #4
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I wonder how that thing will sound

IIRC, they're allowed to have short bursts of this extra power for passing.
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Old 02-20-2008, 09:30 PM   #5
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Flywheel energy storage in consumer vehicles is not far away.
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Old 02-20-2008, 10:23 PM   #6
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meh, old news. We've been talking about this for months in the motorsports forum
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Old 02-20-2008, 11:06 PM   #7
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i think f1 should just be a test bed for all automotive technologies. :P
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Old 02-21-2008, 02:33 AM   #8
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Let me be the first to say:

Brrrrrinngggg bing bing bing bing bwaaaahhhhhhhhh BWAAAHHHHHH breeeeeee
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Old 02-21-2008, 03:48 AM   #9
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NASCAR's had this in the works for ages
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